My wife runs a side hustle that has been in full swing all summer, and which despite being mostly a word of mouth endeavor has evolved over a decade into a full-time job. On top of this, she works one clinical day shift per week in the ED to maintain her skills. My 10 hour shift yesterday turned into a 12 hour shift because the ED was buzzing, and my friends on the overnight could use my help in flushing the proverbial toilet that our waiting room had become. I felt good about the work - the folks I saw in our fast track would have waited hours longer given the night’s high acuity patients.
The down side: I’d planned to spend those two hours, well after the kids had gone to bed, debriefing with my wife before we faded to sleep. Sitting and talking quietly before bed, in the kid-free (interruption-free) dusk, is one of the redeeming moments of those days we spend working.
We just returned from our greatest trip yet with the kids, a slow travel foray to San Cristobal de las Casas en Chiapas, Mexico, where we spent every day together and our bedtime ritual included sharing what we were grateful for every evening. Since returning home, I’ve spent little to no time with the kids. My wife and I walked them to their first day of elementary school, then she ran back to get work done while I cannonballed into a week of shifts. My total working knowledge of their new classrooms consists of monosyllabic grunts when I swing by their bedrooms to kiss them goodnight on returning home after hours.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
In October, I’m cutting back to a 50% shift load, and I’m counting the days. I’m excited about spending more time with the folks I love, engaged in activities that renew me and keep me healthy. I’m also hoping to take some of the “mental load” off my wife’s plate - she’s borne the lion’s share of the kid logistics, endless group texts regarding playdates, and school and extracurricular deadlines for the kids. She rights our family ship, keeps us from sinking and prevents our kids from being antisocial. Up until now, she’s done almost all of it without my help. I’m looking forward to throwing her a lifeline next month.
The greater challenge is will be getting my better half to ease her self-imposed workload. She fully supports the reduction of my clinical workload, and she understands that approaching FI number means we need not fret as much, but it’s definitely a source of anxiety. The flip side of my working (and consequently earning) less is a “gather ye rosebuds while ye may” phenomenon, where my wife feels she can’t decline any opportunities to add to her own clinical burden because what if this is our last opportunity at earning and saving income? As a result, she’s perennially over-scheduled, but it’s a monster of her own creation.
Usually there is one part of a couple who serves as patient zero, bitten by the FI bug before it transmits to the spouse so they’re both drinking the same kool-aid. My wife jokes that my preoccupation with reaching FI and optimizing our finances is a pathology with utility. As we left our financial advisor at Merrill Lynch, changed our cell phone plan (the past 3 months combined on Google Fi cost less than we paid during an average month with Sprint!) she’s appreciated that her nut job husband’s efforts will benefit her in the long run. She’s absolutely right.
Her complementary pathology is that she is an efficiency expert. She will compose an ambitious to do list and multi-task away over the course of a day like a hound on a fox hunt, single-minded in her purpose to get it all done before bed. She detests wasted time, and consequently her days become a series of checking boxes and running harried from one task to another. It’s exhausting, and it eventually takes a toll. Sometimes her mind races so far ahead to tomorrow’s to do list that she becomes distracted, having trouble staying in the moment or constantly reaching for her cell phone to add to the to do list.
We’ve talked it over as a family, and I’m hoping that the small changes she's agreed to undertake (leave the phone in another room while with the kids; providing me veto power before she takes on another shift when her other business is exploding with work) we can have an impact on not just reclaiming our time together, but being present for it.